Genesis 42-44

Genesis 42-44…Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt, they return home and then go back to Egypt, and Joseph plants a silver cup on Benjamin.

Joseph was hard on his brothers, not from a spirit of revenge, but to bring them to repentance. Not seeing his brother Benjamin, he suspected that they had treated him harshly as well, and he gave them occasion to speak of their father and brother. God, in his providence, sometimes can seem similarly harsh with those he loves, and can bring about difficulties for His children.

Joseph decided that one of them should stay, and the rest go home and bring Benjamin. It was a very encouraging word he said to them, “I fear God.” This assured them he would do them no harm. With those that fear God, we can expect to be treated respectfully. We should examine ourselves to be sure that we do fear God. To be clear, this is not the kind of fear a prisoner has for his tormentor, but rather, the fear that a child has for his father. This fear involves respect and love, and deep desire to please. It can be implied from Genesis 42, that treating others disrespectfully shows we do not fear God.

In Genesis 43, Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt. They show great respect to Joseph, and his previous dreams were fulfilled more and more. Joseph showed great kindness to them in return, and this is another example of a Christ-type in the Old Testament. Joseph was a sinner, and is not our savior, but the Lord uses examples like him as well as Noah and Moses and David as a picture of the coming Messiah. Joseph makes his brothers see that he is their only refuge from destruction. He overcomes their unwillingness, and brings them to himself. Then, as he sees fit, he gives them some taste of his love, and welcomes them to the provisions of his house, as a preview of what he further intends for them. Christ does the same with us.

Though all of the brothers show repentance for the way they had treated Joseph when they kneel before him (Genesis 44:14), it is Judah who stands out as the godliest of them all. Only the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit can explain such a transformation in Judah’s life. It may have taken years to get him to this point, but the Spirit’s sanctifying work, seen in its beginning stages when Tamar convicted Judah of his selfishness (38:1–26), shows its profound results in the face of danger in Egypt. Having been humbled and put in place by Tamar, Judah now willingly puts himself last, revealing a self-sacrificing love that will give up everything so that his father, who might never love him as he does Benjamin, will not grieve. Truly, as Matthew Henry writes, Judah surpasses all his brothers “in boldness, wisdom, eloquence, and especially tenderness for their father and family.”

Genesis 36-38

Genesis 36-38..The genealogy of Esau, Joseph’s dream, Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, and the sin of Judah and Tamar.

The genealogy in chapter 36 shows the faithfulness of God to his promise to Abraham. Esau continued the lineage of a people who would be opposed to heavenly things. His family had many possessions, and were influential to all those around. Chiefs and kings from Esau’s line ruled. In outward prosperity and popularity, the children of the God are often behind, and those that are attractive to the world are loved. This is a trial that all of God’s people will face if they are faithful. Jesus told us this:

John 15:18-20

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”

In Genesis 37, Joseph dreams that his family will bow down to him, and then out of jealousy, his brothers sell him into slavery. The Genesis narrative consistently teaches us that sin against others is never isolated. When we commit one sin, we try to conceal it with another. In order to hide actions which are opposed to God, humans throughout history have turned to lying. For the Christian, this is insanity, because God knows everything. There is great freedom when we repent and place our faith in Christ, but hiding sins will only result in shame and more sin. Therefore, we should confess our sins to one another, as we’re told in scripture (James 5:16). If we’re keeping our sins hidden, it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel. We aren’t saved by our own righteousness, and a recognition of our desperate need for Christ is a fundamental first step in a right understanding of God’s rescue plan for us.

Genesis 38 is a beautiful chapter, despite Judah’s sin. On the surface, one could read this chapter, and pridefully boast that our conduct is better. But, if we’ve been saved, this is exactly what we’ve been rescued from. While the behavior of Judah and his family is disgusting, the story demonstrates God’s grace to sinners. It is truly amazing, that of all Jacob’s sons, our Lord should spring out of Judah (Hebrews 7:14). But, this is just like God, to redeem and restore the most unlikely, in order to make His glory known. This is what we see in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’”

Genesis 30-32

Genesis 30-32…Rachel’s envy results in a tangled web of sin; then Jacob flees from Laban, prepares to meet Esau, and wrestles with God.

Rachel envied her sister. Envy is despising the good of another, which is hateful to God, and hurtful to our neighbors and ourselves. It also shows that we don’t trust God’s provision for our own lives. Envy leads Rachel to disobey God, and her selfishness and unbelief lead others to sin. Our culture tells us to take what we want in order to ensure our happiness. As we see in Genesis 30, this approach creates a mess, and the temporary happiness wears off very quickly for Rachel. Most importantly, she had offended God, and this is crucial for us to grasp. Repentance from sin does not mean sorrow over the circumstances created by the sin. Repentance includes a recognition that we’ve offended the holy God of the universe, and involves turning away from that sin to Him.

Disagreement over money leads Jacob to move away from Laban’s family in Genesis 31. The foolish consider money and possessions to be their own, and greed can often destroy families. Our over-valuing worldly wealth is an error which is the root of greed and envy. The bible tells us that our money and possessions belong to God, though. Haggai 2:8 says, “All silver and gold belong to me, says the Lord God.” This truth does not fit with the popular, prosperity gospel, which claims that accumulation of wealth demonstrates our faith. This is false, destructive, and does not align with scripture, nor does it consider for one second the life of Christ.

In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with God. Nothing requires more unceasing exertion than wrestling. This is an image in scripture for prayer as well (Colossians 4:12). It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground, though the struggle was long. This length of the struggle did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. If we are to grow spiritually, we need to wrestle in prayer in this way. Praying takes effort, and is a spiritual discipline everyone Christian should want.

Genesis 21-23

Genesis 21-23…Isaac is born, Ishmael and Hagar are sent away, Abraham is tested, and Sarah dies.

It is just like God, to use the most unlikely circumstances for His glory. He would take stiff-necked people, with fluctuating faith like Abraham and Sarah, and bring about something so miraculous in their lives that they would grow in their trust in Him. Isaac is born, and is the son of a couple who are too old to have children. He is the promised seed, but there would be one to come in his lineage, who would ultimately save sinners. Christ would also be born into circumstances which would seem strange and unlikely from a human perspective.

Upon Isaac’s birth, Ishmael was jealous, and mocked him. Sarah requests that Hagar and Ishmael leave, and God agrees. God, however, did not abandon Hagar and her child. They were stranded in the desert of Beersheba, dying from thirst. An angel of the Lord came to Hagar, showed her a well, and they were saved. Hagar later found an Egyptian wife for Ishmael and he fathered 12 sons, just as Isaac’s son Jacob would. Two generations later, God used the descendants of Ishmael to save the Jewish nation. Isaac’s grandsons sold their brother Joseph into slavery to Ishmaelite traders. They took Joseph to Egypt and sold him again. Joseph eventually rose to become second in command of the entire country and saved his father and brothers during a great famine. This is a great example of how God can use anyone, and can save anyone. There is no one out of the reach of the Lord. Isaiah 59:1 confirms this truth: Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. We need to keep praying for those in our lives who are lost. If God saved you, He can save them.

Genesis 22 is a demonstration of how much Abraham had matured in his faith. God requests that he sacrifice Isaac, and Abraham obeys. The Lord is testing him to see if he really trusts Him. In Genesis 22:8, Abraham says, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” God does provide the sacrifice, and Isaac is spared. This is also a foreshadowing of God’s love for us. He was willing to give up His own Son, whom He loved, and sacrificed Him for our sake.

Sarah dies in Genesis 23. The longest life must shortly come to a close. How loose then should we hold on to all earthly attachments? Let us seek rather to store up treasures in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Genesis 18-20

Genesis 18-20…God sends three visitors to Abraham, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, but spares Lot and his family, and Abraham and Abimelech encounter God’s character.

The Lord has been faithful and merciful to Abraham despite his rebellion and foolishness. He sends three visitors to let Abraham and Sarah know once again that they will have a son, as promised. Sarah laughs at this notion, then lies about her unbelief. The question posed by the Lord here is very encouraging. In Genesis 18:14, He says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Of course, the answer is no, nothing; but, the question is asked to remind Sarah that God doesn’t operate under the same limitations as us.

Despite Abraham’s pattern of sin, he seems to be growing in faith, slowly but surely. God’s patience is amazing, and as we see the ebbing and flowing of Abraham’s obedience, we should recognize that we’re no different. He asks the Lord to spare Lot and his family, and God does so, destroying all of the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah. The messiness of Abraham’s faith is just like ours. We cannot perfectly believe, and we sin daily. Our hearts are lukewarm far too often, and we fail to grasp the seriousness of our sin against a holy God. But God is faithful, and He is maturing us spiritually, using trials and tribulations to sanctify us. If we pursue Him, He will grow us, but we have to fight, and treat each day as a spiritual battle. Sanctification does not come easily, and if we are not consuming His word regularly, praying consistently, and engaging in intimate fellowship with the brothers and sisters in our church, we won’t grow. This is important for our assurance of salvation, because if we’re not being sanctified, then we may not be saved.

In Genesis 20, Abraham once again shows that his faith is weak, and he doesn’t trust God to protect him. He lies to King Abimelech, thinking that he can protect himself through deception. These things are written for our warning, not for us to imitate. This shows us that even Abraham needed a savior. He cannot be justified by his works, but must be indebted for justification, to the righteousness which can only come through Christ.

Romans 4:22-25 is specifically about how Abraham was saved in the same way we are:

22 This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ 23 The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Genesis 15-17

Genesis 15-17…God establishes his covenant with Abram, Hagar and Ishmael become part of the narrative as a result of sin, and the covenant of circumcision between God and Abraham is put in place.

We’re only 17 chapters into the first book of the Bible, and the pattern of interaction between God and man is well-established. God creates and blesses His people. He wants fellowship with them, and they consistently turn to their own selfish wants and needs. Prideful unbelief and selfishness mark all people from Adam to us. But, despite this stiff-necked opposition to our Creator, He consistently shows grace and mercy.

In chapter 15, we see exactly what God wants from us. Genesis 15:1 says:

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

He wants us to believe in Him, and to find contentment in Him. He is our reward, and our interests should align with His. We should pursue righteousness if we love God, because He loves righteousness. This text is married beautifully to Romans 4. We have to have a savior, and we must have righteousness come from outside ourselves, because we cannot be righteous enough. God’s covenant with Abram requires faith in return for righteousness. And so it is for us as well. We cannot be justified by works, but need the works of one who was without sin. Our faith in Christ and repentance from sin is the only way to be shielded from God’s wrath, because He is both perfectly holy and perfectly just.

Genesis 16 outlines a pattern of human unbelief and pride which marks our own lives. Abram’s wife, Sarai, does not believe that God will bless her with children. She convinces Abram to sleep with her servant, Hagar, and he gets Hagar pregnant. This is the same Abram who had just been miraculously saved by the Lord in the previous chapters. Sarai is then upset by the outcome, which is not surprising. However, this is exactly what we do. We don’t like God’s timing and/or word, so we take matters into our own hands. We sin, choosing to somehow please ourselves and find happiness. The outcome of our sin is usually not great, then we are upset with the circumstances that we put ourselves in by not obeying God in the first place. This cycle of prideful unbelief marks all of our lives, but it can be broken. We have to first recognize that we are in desperate need of a savior because of our sin. Through repentance and faith we can be changed. This is what true conversion looks like.

God’s interaction with Abraham in Genesis 17 follows the same course. He promises to bless Abraham with a son, and Abraham laughs at him. But God, being abundantly patient and merciful, blesses Abraham anyway. He is a loving father, and exercises this same patience with us. He wants our hearts, and desires that we put down the trinkets and toys that we worship. Those idols we try to find contentment in will not be in heaven. Are you looking forward to heaven for the right reward? Because if you a longing for eternity with something other than God, you aren’t going to like heaven.

Genesis 5-8

Genesis 5-8…The genealogical connection from Adam to Noah is made, as well as the record of God’s wrath being poured out on His creation because of sin in the form of a great flood. Adam was made in the image of God; but when fallen, he had sons in his own image, sinful and defiled, frail and mortal, like himself. Not only men like himself, consisting of body and soul, but sinners like himself. This was the opposite of the Divine likeness in which Adam was made. Having lost it, he could not convey it to his offspring. The world which was once a perfect paradise, quickly regressed because of human sin, and things are so bad that God actually says He regretted making humans (Genesis 6:7). However, there was one who found favor in the eyes of the Lord because He obeyed; Noah, who walked faithfully with God. As we’ll read later in Genesis 9, he was far from perfect, but God still used him. He promises to save Noah and his family if he’ll do as the Lord commands, which includes building a massive ark and staying inside during the flood. God remembers them (Genesis 8:1), and protects them. He promises never to destroy all living creatures again, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood (Genesis 8:21).

Jesus references Genesis 6-8, and compares it to His return in Luke 17:26-27:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

Christ’s return is certain, and it could be today. We are all wired like Eve, thinking that we won’t die, and that we can live to please ourselves. However, our lives are very short, like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). Christ desires that all come to repentance and faith, but very few will truly know Him and be saved (Matthew 7:13-14). If you are reading this, then you have time to repent and believe, it’s just not certain how much longer you have.

Isaiah 40:17

Isaiah 40:17…”Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.” This magnifies God’s love to the world. Although it is of such small account and value with him, for the redemption of it, he gave his only-begotten Son, John 3:16. Since we are to have the same mindset as that of Christ, we need to be careful to not focus our minds and hearts on worldly things. This is especially true of our relationships. Each person in our lives has been put there strategically by the Lord. We need to continually grow in our interest in the spiritual well-being of those around us. Do you care if those around you are growing in holiness? Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth includes a command from God to do this with our fellow church members:

1 Corinthians 5:10-11
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Isaiah 40:13

Isaiah 40:13…”Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?” Reading and understanding God’s word is essential to our spiritual well-being. Our default instructors include three sources, all of which will deceive us:
1) the world; 2) Satan; 3) ourselves. If we don’t allow God’s word to shape our worldview, we’ll allow those three to do so, which is very dangerous and deceptive. We must allow the Lord to be our counselor, but we can’t do that unless we know what He says, and He has spoken to us through His word.

Isaiah 40:12

Isaiah 40:12…”Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens.” The answer is God only. This verse is a powerful illustration, showing both God’s bigness and his power. His hand controls all things, and nothing is outside of his reach. This should bring us great joy with our current circumstances. God’s hand is on every last detail of our lives. If we consider this truth about God, and actually believe it, we’re left with a very hard reality about our complaints, both big and small. We’re complaining about God. We think we know better. We think we deserve better. However, if we were given what we truly deserve, we would all be in hell right now, under God’s eternal judgement. Thankfully, we have a Father who is also abundantly gracious and merciful, and has provided a rescue plan for us in Christ.

God in His own words explains it best in Ephesians 2:1-10:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”